Ernst worked with Carl Zeiss producing optical instruments. Without his scientific and mathematical training they would not have been able to produce such high quality lenses required in the manufacture of microscopes.

  • Born: Eisenach — 23rdJanuary 1840
  • Died: Jena — 14thJanuary 1905
  • Physicist
  • Developed optical instruments
  • Educated: Universities of Jena & Göttingen

Before Ernst met Carl Zeiss, optical instruments used crown and flint glass to make microscope lenses. This limited the magnification and resolution of microscopes and other optical instruments. In 1879 Ernst met Otto Schott who was able to develop borate and phosphate glass; these have very different properties from crown and flint glass and allowed Abbe to produce an apochromatic oil immersion objective lens. Abbe also designed the substage condenser.

As a result of this work we are able to use light microscopes which approach the highest possible resolution available using a light microscope. The resolution of a microscope is its ability to resolve tiny detail. Higher resolution can only be obtained by using electrons instead of light (photons): the highest theoretical resolution of a microscope depends upon the wavelength of light for a light microscope or the wavelength of electrons. Therefore electron microscopes have a much higher resolving power than light microscopes, ie you can see much more detail with an electron microscope than with a light microscope.

In 1888 Ernst became the owner of the Zeiss concern. You may own a pair of binoculars or camera with the Carl Zeiss logo. Today there are very many companies designing and manufacturing optical instruments, but Zeiss remain one of the very best over 100 years later.

So who was he?

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